What is the Facebook-BJP controversy, and who is Ankhi Das?

In recent days there has been debates and 'exposés' and a lot of speculation over the BJP's alleged links with Facebook. It has become a major talking point for Congress leaders to target BJP leaders and had then devolved into name-calling and counter allegations.

At the root of the discussion is a Wall Street Journal article that a senior Facebook official in India was opposed to applying hate speech rules against leaders associated with the BJP and other Hindutva groups. As per the report, Ankhi Das, who is Facebook’s top public policy executive in India, opposed applying hate speech rules to the BJP’s T. Raja Singh out of fear of ruining the company’s relationship with the ruling party. RTI activist Saket Gokhale alleges that Das has been has been "working for the BJP".

In the meantime, the official in question has filed a complaint with the Delhi Cyber Crime Department, sharing screenshots of those who had threatened her. As of Tuesday, there is also a case against her, filed by a journalist in Chhattisgarh who was named in Das' complaint.

Who is Ankhi Das?

Ankhi Das is the head of Public Policy at Facebook, India as well as being an occasional contributor to some major media organisations. Reportedly, she had over 15 years of experience in this field. According to her LinkedIn profile, Das had been working as the Director of Public Policy for Microsoft India.

She studied at Kolkata's Loreto College and then studied international relations and political science at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University.

What does Facebook and Das have to say?

Das for her part has not joined the public discourse. In her only tweet that seems to address the controversy she had written that it was always "easy to blame others".

"You can spend your entire life blaming the world, but your success and failures are your own responsibility," she had tweeted early on Tuesday.

Facebook as a whole has also denied the allegations. "We prohibit hate speech and content that incites violence and we enforce these policies globally without regard to anyone's political position or party affiliation," a spokesperson was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

"While we know there is more to do, we're making progress on enforcement and conduct regular audits of our process to ensure fairness and accuracy," the official added.

How has the Opposition reacted to the allegations?

The Opposition Congress has repeatedly targeted the BJP over this issue. While Rahul Gandhi had, a few days ago tweeted that the "BJP and RSS control Facebook and WhatsApp in India", the party has continued its attack. The Congress has also sent a letter to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg.

"Can anyone else see the deep irony in FB’s policy head filing an FIR for alleged violent threats when she supported a policy that let ruling party leaders threaten, abuse and instigate violence openly on FB?" tweeted TMC MP Mahua Moitra on Monday.

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Free Press Journal